One Wisconsin Now Statements on Successful Defense of First Amendment Rights of Non-Profit Organizations

Government Accountability Board Amends Rule, Acknowledges Overreach

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MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross released the following statements on a stipulating reached late Tuesday in advance of Thursday’s hearing in federal court over its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board’s adopted rule 1.28, which would prohibit free speech expression of non-profit organizations in Wisconsin within the month prior to a primary election and 60 days before a general election.

“The Government Accountability Board does not have the ability to regulate issue advocacy communications under Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws. Individuals and organizations need to be free to comment on public policy and the records of public officials, regardless of the time of year. That is not just our long-held position, it is the U.S. Supreme Court’s long-held position, applying the First Amendment.

“With today’s stipulation, the state finally has recognized its own limitations in regulating any speech that is not express advocacy or its functional equivalent. The stipulation will prevent the G.A.B. from expanding the scope of political speech considered for a “political purpose” and avoid subjecting issue advocacy during the 30/60 day preelection periods to state campaign finance regulation.

“While constitutional issues still remain as to the appropriateness of efforts to regulate the Internet and other political speech at a $25 threshold, we are satisfied that today’s stipulation will allow us to continue with our activities, as we always have, without registering and reporting with the state.

“Wisconsin faces enormous challenges and One Wisconsin Now believes the more voices that have a say in our public debate, the better. There is nothing served by limiting the ability of local, community groups to talk about the important issues of the day and the public officials responsible for shaping policy.

“One Wisconsin Now will not step down from the public policy debate. We hope groups, activists and citizens from across Wisconsin will join us in standing firm for the right to speak up and talk about issues that affect all of our lives.”

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One Wisconsin Now specializes in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.